Monday, July 15, 2013

the busy signal: devoted or impish?

Philip Roth, The Ghost Writer, 1979, Chapter 1. Maestro

"Only when a little of the coveted bounty was finally his for the asking - only when it became altogether clear just how stupefyingly unsuited he was to have and to hold anything other than his art - was he inspired to write that brilliant cycle of comic parables (the stories "Revenge," "Lice," "Indiana," "Eppes Essen," and "Adman") in which the tantalized hero does not move to act at all—the tiniest impulse toward amplitude or self-surrender, let alone intrigue or adventure, peremptorily extinguished by the ruling triumvirate of Sanity, Responsibility, and Self-Respect, assisted handily by their devoted underlings: the timetable, the rainstorm, the headache, the busy signal, the traffic jam, and, most loyal of all, the last-minute doubt."

James Gleick, The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood, 2011, Prologue

"As the role of information grows beyond anyone's reckoning, it grows to be too much.  "TMI," people now say.  We have information fatigue, anxiety, and glut.  We have met the Devil of Information Overload and his impish underlings, the computer virus, the busy signal, the dead link, and the PowerPoint presentation.  All this, too, is due in its roundabout way to Shannon.  Everything changed so quickly."

The Underling: A Parallel? A Homage? A Meme?

Whatever it is, I like it.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


Rachel Kushner, The Flamethrowers, 2013, Chapter 2. Spiritual America

"Only a killjoy would claim neon wasn't beautiful.  It jumped and danced, chasing its own afterimage."

Sunday, May 5, 2013

the contrarian's proxy argument

Renata Adler, Speedboat, 1971, Chapter 7.  The Agency

"You are no longer expounding a proposition.  You are having a tantrum.  Simon's psychiatrist and I pursued our tantrum, in duet, all evening long.  The horse might have two natural gaits, the Charleston and the entrechat, for all it mattered.  I meant, I didn't like the man and I thought that, within twenty years, his profession would have vanished, leaving no artifacts of any interest except a dazed memory of fifty years of ineffective and remunerative peculation in the work of a single artist, Freud.  I also meant I didn't like his flowered shirt.  He meant, I think, he didn't like me either."

peculate |ˈpekyəˌlāt|verb [ with obj. ] formalembezzle or steal (money, esp. public funds): the people accused them of having peculated the public money.DERIVATIVESpeculation |ˌpekyəˈlāSHən|noun,peculator |-ˌlātər|nounORIGIN mid 18th cent.: from Latin peculat- embezzled, from the verbpeculari (related to peculium property).

Sunday, April 7, 2013

recurrent dream

Renata Adler, Speedboat, 1971, Chapter 1. Castling

"I don’t know how many people have ever seen or passed through Broadway Junction. It seems to me one of the world’s true wonders: nine crisscrossing, overlapping elevated tracks, high in the air, with subway cars screeching, despite uncanny slowness, over thick rusted girders, to distant, sordid places. It might have been created by an architect with an Erector Set and recurrent amnesia, and city ordinances and graft, this senseless ruined monster of all subways, in the air."

Monday, October 15, 2012

usufruct, again and again

Maybe DFW read Joan of Arc by Mark Twain.  This is from the endpapaer of one of his notebooks:

tin palate

"Against Joie de Vivre" by Philip Lapote, Ploughshares, 1986

"I am saved from such culinary paganism by the fact that food is largely an indifferent matter to me. I rarely think much about what I am putting in my mouth. Though my savage, illiterate palate has inevitably been educated to some degree by the many meals I have shared with people who care enormously about such things, I resist going any further. I am superstitious that the day I send back a dish at a restaurant, or make a complicated journey to somewhere just for a meal, that day I will have sacrificed my freedom and traded in my soul for a lesser god."

Tuesday, July 31, 2012


John McPhee, The Control of Nature1989, "Cooling the Lava"

The view over the community is of red, green, blue, beige, yellow bright rooftops, walls of oyster and cream.  Silver.  Turquoise.  Copper.  Butter.  It's a trig and colorful, prosperous, handsome town.  There is a house in three shades of green that closely resembles the geologic map of Nebraska.  Its appearance is not singular in Vestrnannaeyjar.

trig 2adjectiveneat and smart in appearance two trig little boys, each in a gray flannel suit.verb ( trigged trigging ) [ trans. ]make neat and smart in appearance he has rigged her and trigged her with paint and spar.ORIGIN Middle English (in the sense [faithful, trusty] ): from Old Norse tryggr; related totrue . The current verb sense dates from the late 17th cent.